George Frederick McKay (1899–1970) — Contemplations (Four Expressive Pieces after a poem by William Blake) (1962) for organ
1. Andantino poetico
2. Moderato, molto espressivo
3. Moderato con moto, quieto e teneramente
4. Moderato parlando
George Frederick McKay (1899–1970) was born and spent most of his life in Washington State. He founded the composition department at the University of Washington and served as professor of music for over 40 years. McKay composed nearly 1000 works in every style and form, including about 30 works for organ. In recent years, a series of recordings of his orchestral music on the Naxos label have brought renewed attention to his music.
“Contemplations” (1962) is a set of four movements in response to a poem by William Blake (1757–1827). The poem (“The Divine Image”) was one of McKay’s favorites and he responded to it in several compositions, including a choral setting. The four movements are not specifically programmatic, but reflect in an expressive manner to the poem’s ideas. The first movement quotes the canon “When Jesus Wept” by the Colonial American composer William Billings (1746–1800).
McKay quotes the following two verses from Blake’s poem above the score:
“To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.
For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our Father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is man, His child and care.”